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(Recovered Post) Twenty Years Online

This is the first of two posts from an earlier, short-lived, incarnation of this site, retrieved from the Internet Archive. Originally posted November 10th 2009.

One of the reasons for starting this new blog was to celebrate an anniversary. It was 20 years ago, in 1989, that I got a dial-up modem connected up to a BBC Master 128 and persuaded my dad to wire up a phone line extension to my bedroom.

The online world that I entered back then was very different to the one we inhabit today. There was the Internet, but it was unknown to all but those in universities, research institutes, the military and a few large companies. There were online communities, but they were islands that could be reached only with payment and a direct computer-to-computer connection. E-mail existed, but was just starting to become usable between different online services. The World Wide Web was still an embryonic idea in the head of Tim Berners-Lee (not yet a Sir) at his desk at CERN. Those that could not or would not pay to join an online service could find a local bulletin board system (BBS), and possibly play some rudimentary (for the time) games, or even chat if there were other people online at the same time (and the BBS computer and/or phone lines could handle it).

Oh, and before I forget, there was the small matter of cost. In particular, the cost of all those long phone calls. grimace Suffice to say, I had to curb my enthusiasm a lot. Of course, sometimes my enthusiasm was involuntarily curbed due to the phone line being engaged, or the computer I was trying to connect to being down for maintenance. So I became adept at copying messages to a file on my computer, going through it after disconnecting, writing replies to another files, then uploading that the next time I connected. And I was on the look-out for a faster modem… my first downloaded at 1200bps (that’s bits per second) and uploaded at 75bps. And at that time, that was fast!

Something for my younger acquaintances to ponder, in between their tweets, Facebook updates and IMs… :)

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